Never ever will you hear me call myself the most experienced adventure rider out there. Frankly, if you learn anything from the following pages, odds are you probably aren't either, which in my opinion is exactly how we should all be. How boring would it be to know everything anyway? Parked up in my shed at the moment are two bikes; a 2010 Suzuki DR650, and a 2013 Suzuki V-Strom 650. I’ve learned a tonne from building these two bikes – I’ve also sold off more parts than I've bought, but here are five I’d never part with or change. SOFT LUGGAGE As far as I’m concerned, hard luggage suits three types of riders: cafe-scene posers who have probably (just once) searched Ebay for ‘Simpson Desert Stickers’; unemployed, round-the-world riders with crap hair, long fingernails and surprisingly attractive girlfriends; and finally the third group: people who watched The Long Way Round once and assumed that motorcycle adventure is found at the end of a sponsor’s chequebook and a BMW keychain. I’m none of the above (besides the crap hair). WHY SOFT LUGGAGE? Quality soft bags are either waterproof, or sold with a waterproof liner, can absorb an impact without denting, splitting or rubbing off your pretty Ebay stickers, and you can easily lane-split when they’re empty – unlike when you ride the USS Super-Beemer (secretly, I’d own an R1200GSA… just sayin’). The kicker for me is that soft bags fit many different racks, meaning they’ll swap between bikes easily and you’re not obligated to buy a $700 set of pannier racks, simply because you want that manufacturer’s hard cases.
Riding is about comfort, safety and – let’s face it – a little bit about looking cool. Factory lights are usually crap, and a solid set of auxiliary lights ticks all three aforementioned boxes as well as being a solid option for blinding VW Golf driving millennials that like to keep one eye on the road and the other on Pinterest while merging across three lanes...
I’D NEVER GO WITHOUT ‘EM
The lights on my Strom turn a dark highway into a well-lit cricket pitch. I don't typically plan to ride big distances at night, but occasionally you just get caught out. Good plans that go to shit – that’s adventure. Hitting a roo at 110km/h on a motorbike isn’t my idea of adventure, and can be a real left-right-goodnight for you and the bike. Please, invest in a good set of lights – I don’t even care what brand. I’m talking $200+ a light. Cheapies typically have a crap mounting system and rubbish beam pattern courtesy of Happy Flappy brand reflectors.
THOSE THINGS YOUR FEET GO ON Having two left feet is lame on the dance floor, but it’s downright dangerous on a motorbike. Think about it: 50% of your bike controls are under your feet. Your feet control weight shift when off-road, braking, gear changing as well as being the things you stand up on for kilometres at a time on fire trails... you do stand when riding off-road, right? In the same way you adjust your hand levers, you need to set up your bike for your feet.
THE BEST CHANGE I EVER MADE Fitting grippy, sharp pegs on the DR650 as well as lowering my pegs an inch changed everything about how I ride off-road and my comfort on the bitumen. I’m tall, so lowering the pegs alleviated knee pain and hip cramps while seated and the tack sharp pegs hold my boots super tight through almost any obstacle. BASHPLATE
Want to look like you chew up some serious miles? Want scantly-clothed women flocking to you at every set of traffic lights? Sick of being asked for ID at the bottle’o even though you’re 35? Put some hair on your sissy chest, grow a beard and fit a bashplate to your motorcycle. Once you do, be warned you’ll no longer be allowed to nod at road riders – you’re better than them now. You’re an ADV rider.
"Riding an adventure bike goes hand in hand with dropping and crashing an adventure bike. While your bones will eventually heal, the heartbreak of a smashed engine case will last a lifetime. Do your bike a solid, and fit a bashplate."
WHY THEY’RE THE DUCKS! We now know that riding a motorbike is 80% looking cool and 20%... oops, sorry wrong magazine. Riding an adventure bike goes hand in hand with dropping and crashing an adventure bike. While your bones will eventually heal, the heartbreak of a smashed engine case will last a lifetime. Do your bike a solid, and fit a bashplate. Just make sure the mounts are tough and high-tensile bolts are used. A bashplate that comes loose in a crash is a damn dangerous thing.
WIND PROTECTION Admit it, we’re all guilty of being a fair-weather rider now and again. And who cares? Riding is a personal thing; ride when you want to. But if you own a dual sport, you’re probably reluctant to hit the highway because of the absolute hammering you cop from the wind – especially in a dual sport peaked helmet. Amirite? WHAT DID IT FOR ME? I’m tall, with the structural rigidity of overcooked spaghetti. For me on the DR at highway speeds, I looked and felt somewhat like one of those whacky-waviling-flailing-inflatable-armed tube men. That was until I fitted a windscreen. Nowhere near the size of the screen on my
Strom, the little screen on the DR still got the wind to fly up and over my head and chest meaning I no longer have an issue with a few hundred kays of highway slog. It may still be an agricultural, rattly, hot, ugly, loud and vibrating piece of granite, but... wait where was I going with that again? Oh yeah, but at least I’ve got some wind protection now! NOTABLE MENTIONS Picking just five of my favourite mods was surprisingly hard, so here’s another five that didn’t make the cut, but definitely deserve a spot in the top 10.
Heated Grips (Better suited to a long haul rider)
AirHawk seat pad (When you have an arse like an axe head, it’s a lifesaver)
DIY tool tube
TIME TO HIT THE ROAD
Well, it’s time for me to wrap this one up, the editors are tapping their watches, throwing rotten fruit and telling me to get on with it. Suits me fine, the bike’s warming up in the driveway and it’s freakin’ hard to type with a helmet and gloves on. Righto, stop reading, bugger off and go and throw a leg over something – I’ll see you out there.